What the frack!? (Robin Hood’s Lament)

Fracking is the controversial process of blasting a mixture of water and other chemicals into subterranean rocks in order to open up fissures, thus releasing oil or gas.

When I see definitions of fracking it’s always the “and other chemicals” bit that worries me. I can imagine the fracking PR man saying “we inject water into the ground,” and then adding under his breath “and other chemicals,” as verbal small-print. Actually, the fracking companies don’t disclose the exact mixture they use to frack due to the special recipe being a “trade secret”, but samples have concluded that benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene are amongst the lovely substances that are used.

I’ve always been morally against fracking anywhere, but a few months ago my NIMBY reflex was activated when I heard that the fracking company ‘INEOS’ wanted to test Sherwood Forest for its fracking potential. Sherwood Forest, the home of Robin Hood, is internationally famous and is a 15-minute drive away from where I live. The tests would involve seismic surveys just a few hundred yards from the Major Oak (Robin Hood’s tree). Obviously, when I heard about this I was outraged. I went to a demonstration in January organised by Frack Free Nottinghamshire and Friends of the Earth, as well as other activist groups (see the picture I took at the top of this article and this BBC story ).

The seismic surveys, a pre-cursor to fracking, are damaging in themselves (explosives are often used, vehicles need access, and detectors and cables need to be laid down over a wide area), but they are also a clear indicator that a company wants to frack the area. An INEOS spokesperson said, in response to the Sherwood Forest demonstration, that INEOS were only trying to get permission for test surveys and that there was no need to cause any alarm for the general public…which tells me there would be cause for alarm if the fracking actually went ahead! My advice, if there are plans for fracking in your area, is to be active early, and show your defiance at an early stage. Don’t let them get a foot in the door!

There are obvious environmental concerns about fracking, but the social side is also very worrying. I live in a former coal mining community, so I have experienced the after-effects of Margaret Thatcher’s brutal attack on the miners in the 80s. Sure, fracking would provide jobs in the area, but I know the government would have no qualms about unceremoniously taking them away on a whim and turning the area into a run-down ruin that would take 30 years or more to recover.

Wouldn’t it be better to invest in clean energy? Solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity? We should learn from Portugal who, last year, ran 4-days straight on renewable energy alone (why this wasn’t leading news all over the world is beyond me!) – read about Portugal HERE.

Looking at all the money-spinning schemes of the past, including the use of asbestos, tells me that it’s always the bigwigs that benefit financially, and it’s always the little people who are left with the long-term shit that it produces. INEOS doesn’t care if they poison our water, kill our habitat, destroy our communities as long as they get a short-term financial boost. In the case of Sherwood Forest they would also be attacking a world-renowned socialist icon in Robin Hood. What would he say about all this?

Robin Hood is long dead, so we have to fire his arrows for him. If there are plans for fracking in your area I urge you to get active, get organised, and refuse to let it happen!

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Our Unfair Society (and Cavemen)

The current systems in place within our society do not work. They breed inequality, undermine democracy, and completely ignore important topics, such as the many environmental issues we face. We need change in a big way, but there are many obstacles in the way.

The main obstacle is ourselves. People are naturally resistant to change (ask anyone who works in HR). This probably stems back to instincts instilled in us when the world was a much more threatening place. Biologically, there is virtually no difference between us and cavemen. Born in the same environmental conditions, you and a caveman would be equals (the caveman would be a little bit hairier, granted). Cavemen had to live in a very specific way to survive in their world. Changes in their lifestyle could be fatal. Today, we still have that instinct that tells us, “if you are alive, you’re doing something right, so don’t change anything!”.

Just in case anyone’s reading this thinking “I’m using a computer – I’m way more advanced than a caveman!” – that’s due to accumulation of knowledge i.e. the people before us figuring things out and writing things down (which started with cavemen drawing on the cave walls). All I’m saying is, if you were dropped naked onto a desert island, how long would it take you to send an e-mail?

So, we are very cautious about disrupting the status quo, even if we can see, rationally, that we are being cheated. We feel secure when things stay the same.

There is also a well-established pecking order in our society, which provides another obstacle to reform. The powerful people at the top of the pecking order are constantly telling us that things are okay the way they are, and to change anything would be a big risk. But, of course, they would say that, wouldn’t they, because they’re benefiting from the systems in place.

The people at the top of the pecking order are the mass communicators too, so their voice is the loudest, and it resonates in our ears constantly. They tell us that the people who want reform are crazy, idealists, and troublemakers. The people benefiting from the systems in place are the minority, so they have to turn us against each other to maintain their position. They also have to make us believe that social reform is out of reach, an impossibility. But maybe it’s closer than we think.

The philosophy we live by doesn’t make sense. One person starves to death while another is born the Queen (two people who are both shaved cavemen). Since the philosophy doesn’t make sense, the supporters of the philosophy lose touch with reality or use their influence to suppress real-world issues. All we get are minor changes designed to appease the masses – we are seeing plenty of them in the run-up to the general election!

As it stands, we are not in control of our own lives; we are used by the ruling class. We need to pry our lives from the desperate grasp of the powerful in order to live in a fairer society.

Tuition Fees: The Lower The Better

Today Ed Milliband promised that he would cut university tuition fees by a third if elected and, crucially (as we learnt from Mr Clegg last time), this would be non-negotiable in any post-election coalition deals. There has already been a lot of cynicism in the media about this, and I am preparing myself for more of the same, but I think this cut in tuition fees would be a great thing.

A lot of the naysayers are saying that the promise is tokenistic, and that it wouldn’t make much of a difference to students. If a student takes a 4-year university course today, it will cost them £36,000. If they take the same course after the tuition cut it will cost them £24,000. They would save £12,000 (this isn’t taking into account other expenses such as accommodation). That’s simple mathematics. £12,000 is a lot of money. If a person doesn’t think £12,000 is a lot of money then they’re out of touch with the real world.

The universities are also saying that this is a bad idea (surprise, surprise). They seem to be concerned that they might not be able to function properly if the tuition fees are capped at £6000 a year instead of £9000. This is all talk. A few short years ago (as recent as 2010) fees were capped at £3000 a year, and they were coping just fine. Now, suddenly they’re horrified at the prospect of having to cope with 6k.

Lowering tuition fees is good for the country but, personally, I think the cap should be even lower. Ideally, I believe higher education should be free.

Up until the late 90s it was, essentially, free to go to uni. But for much of this time university was something that was only accessible to the more privileged, and it wasn’t generally considered an option for the working class. During this time it was acceptable for the taxpayer to foot the bill for higher education. When university became an option for most young people, even the working class, that’s about the time they decided that people should have to pay for university. If you see something wrong with that, then you and I are on the same page.

Why should the wealthy have more of a right to a good education than the poor?

The Nordic philosophy to higher education is what we should aspire to. They have always been strongly opposed to tuition fees. The same goes for Scotland. The difference with Scotland is that they are actually a part of the UK. I also live in the UK, but I wouldn’t get free tuition fees because I happen not to have been born in the right part of the UK. If Scotland gets free higher education I think we should all get the same privilege.

I feel privileged to have been able to go to university. I’m the first person in my family to have done so (in fact, when I got my first GCSE I became the most qualified member of my family, which comprises of coal miners and steel-workers). University is a great opportunity to develop, meet people, and broaden your horizons while in the pursuit of knowledge. I believe it has made me a better person, and I believe our country would benefit from it greatly…IF people didn’t come out of the other side of it with crippling debt.

Cuts to tuition fees would be a big step in the right direction.

Annoying Words/Terms in the Media

Thanks to the media, there are many over-used words and phrases that the British public are getting sick of hearing. Here are a few:

Austerity

A word used by people who don’t actually feel the effects of it. People who do feel the effects of it tend to say “Mum, Dad, I’m moving back in with you guys!” instead.

ISIS

They were the “biggest threat” to the Western World even before we’d decided what to call them. Also, when you see your sister in the street you can’t shout “Hi, Sis” anymore without getting funny looks.

TV Debate

This discussion is raging on. Basically, David Cameron doesn’t want a TV debate because he thinks opinion of him is as good as it’s going to get already. He was well up for the debates last time round…

Selfie

Narcissistic, but we’ve all done it. I remember when people had friends who would take pictures for them. Now everyone hates each other.

Long Term Economic Plan

The Tories know how to put the slow into slogan. Boring. Drab. Completely un-proactive. The deficit reduction has stalled, our debt has increased, and spending on vital services has been slashed. This plan is going to feel very long-term to the working class.

Fracking

This word sounds rude, and we’re going to be hearing it a lot more. Apparently there’s a “debate” as to whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. In reality there is no debate. The people who want it are the people who will benefit financially from it. Everyone else thinks it’s a silly idea. But, of course, the big corporations usually get their own way in the end.

Can you suggest any more?

Cynicism

When I look at politics and society today it pains me to see so much cynicism.

cynicism

[ ˈsɪnɪsɪz(ə)m ] 

NOUN

  1. an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest; scepticism

This cynicism didn’t appear out of thin air. Several things contributed to the current cynical zeitgeist in our society. The terrorist attacks on the 11th of September 2001, and the subsequent attacks since, are bound to sap people’s faith in mankind. The recession, caused by wreckless, selfish actions by banks and corporations, has had a negative effect on almost everyone – people are bound to be more suspicious of the world around them. In response to these things, the government has been making irresponsible decisions that hurt the vulnerable members of our society while protecting the wealthy and powerful.

The latter of these factors is the most interesting. The government has played a big part in causing this cynicism, and now it uses the cynicism to gain support. Basically, the government gave us a swift kick to the balls and then made us pay them for the ice to stop the swelling.

Here are some of the cynical policies the government wants to enforce:

  • No more benefits for drug addicts and the overweight. It’s all their fault, so why should everyone else have to contribute towards them?
  • Privatise the NHS. People are using it willy-nilly. Maybe they’ll think twice if they have to pay!
  • Stop people coming into the country. They’re going to sponge off of the system.
  • Bring back fox-hunting. Those little furry bastards are trying to take over the world!

The government is happy with the current unsettled, cynical state of our society because it gives them leverage to manipulate people. The government is able to turn hate away from themselves and onto others. Suddenly the government is providing ‘solutions’ to problems that probably don’t even exist, marginalising a few outsider groups in order to please the masses.

But the government won’t provide us with any real solutions, because that would improve the chaotic, cynical, unpleasant atmosphere we’re living in. And as we’ve establish, that’s the government’s leverage – it’s not in their interest to improve it.

Luckily, I think people are getting wise (or desensitised) to this way of thinking. The right wing parties that were enjoying a resurgence are now dying back a little bit. People are tired of hating. Greece have embraced anti-austerity (which is scaring the wits out of the EU). I think a change has begun.

However, the change isn’t in full-swing. The UK elections are only a few short months away: Will the public be ready to vote for change, or will we be stuck with the Conservatives again? Only time will tell. I only hope that the future holds less cynicism and more compassion for our fellow man.

Targeting the Vulnerable – Who is the Enemy?

Who is the enemy?

It comes as no surprise that the Conservative Government are targeting the overweight and people with drug problems as the enemy this week. If you didn’t know, the government has proposed that the overweight and people with drug problems who are on sickness pay should have their benefits cut.

The logic behind this is shaky. Actually, calling it “logic” is a bit of a stretch. The fact is, the government really doesn’t want to pay any type of benefits to anyone. They resent having to give one single penny to anyone who isn’t in their circle of Chosen Ones. So, as a starting point, they have randomly chosen a vulnerable group of people to pick on, and they want to make life even harder than it already is for them.

Wait a minute, this is familiar. I remember seeing another group of people taking money from an overweight person, only this was in a school playground, and they also gave him a wedgie!

The overweight and drug addicts are vulnerable people. They often have mental health issues. The next step for the Tory government could well be to cut benefits to all people with mental health issues, forcing the bi-polar and manic depressive into work (or onto the streets) when they are at their most vulnerable, putting them and the people around them in danger. But who cares? It’s only the lower class factory-working scum.

Let’s not forget why people get hooked onto drugs or become overweight. The poor have numerous stresses and hardships that the wealthy, such as George Osborne and David Cameron, are completely unaware of. The biggest problem in life some people face is whether to buy the Rolls or the Lexus. Others have to worry about staying alive and housing themselves. These stresses force people to turn to escape-ism in order to forget how horrible their lives are. This means recreational drug use, which is fine if you have the personality type to control it. Some aren’t so lucky, and through mistakes, moments of weakness, or mental illness, they may find themselves hooked on harder, more life-degrading drugs.

And the overweight? When you have to work full-time for minimum wage and you come home feeling like crap it’s hard to motivate yourself to do exercise. If you have family to look after that makes it even harder. Unlike the Tory cabinet, these people don’t have gyms, personal trainers and nutritionists either. The poor will often buy the cheapest and most convenient foods and drinks, which is often unhealthy.

Vulnerable people can easily fall into unhealthy lifestyles. The government’s plan? Attack them!

It’s an easy option, because they know that they will get public support. David Cameron says: “It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work.” It’s a rallying cry to turn people against the most vulnerable in our society when really we should be turning our attention to the real enemy: TAX AVOIDERS.

Wealthy tax avoiders in business and industry cheat us out of billions. The Conservatives turn a blind eye. Why? Because these same people fund the Conservative Party, and will fund the Tory election campaign later on this year. The Tories aren’t going to bite the hands that feed them. They will allow these educated criminals to go about their business.

David Cameron, our Prime Minister, our moral compass…

The Conservatives want to divide and conquer. Don’t be fooled. Don’t let them turn us against each other. The working class isn’t the problem. You need to look to the very top to find our real enemies.

Equality in the Eyes of the Law

Every person in the United Kingdom is equal in the eyes of the law. But some are more equal than others.

When a lower class criminal sticks their hand in the till and takes a few grand the full weight of the law crashes down, splattering them like a bug. They will be publicly named and shamed, fined, and imprisoned.

When a wealthy businessman or banker commits a crime (often involving millions of pounds) they get a slap on the wrist, a comparatively small fine, or it is swept under the carpet completely. Or, which to me is even scarier, they follow legal channels so that they’re not technically doing anything wrong at all, even though they are causing just as much pain and damage to us underlings. To quote a Morrissey song, “Educated criminals work within the law”.

Look at the Libor scandal. Libor (which stands for London Interbank Offered Rate) is an average interest rate that many markets use as a reference point. It turned out that banks, most notably Barclays, were manipulating Libor for their own benefit – highly illegal. They stole billions, but was anyone held accountable? I bet hundreds should have got prison time for their part in the scandal, but they got off with a few measly fines.

Big companies are exempt from the law. Now and again, in extreme circumstances, one person will take the blame and lose their job. Yeah, and if I went to work on Monday and battered someone to death I’d lose my job too. But I’d also go to prison.

Then there’s the ability of the upper class to pay for the best solicitors (getting “justice” is easy if you can afford it).

And don’t get me started of judges! The people dishing out the sentences are from the same stock as the bankers, politicians, and the leaders in industry. The lack of diversity in the judicial system leaves it filled with out-of-touch white upper class males (and therefore the whole system benefits white upper class males).

To have equality in the UK we need to get the basics right. Equality in the eyes of the law is a must!